Robert Motherwell, ‘Iberia No. 2’, 1958, Dedalus Foundation

This picture was painted in Saint-Jean-de-Luz during the summer of 1958, shortly after Motherwell had seen an especially moving bullfight. Although the painting was not meant to be a literal representation, the encroaching blackness of the massed form evokes the dark presence of the animal. The way blackness itself seems to be captured in the process of filling the image became a definitive feature of the later paintings in the Iberia series, in which the blacks are handled with extraordinary nuance and
subtlety, and paradoxically seem to radiate light as much as darkness.

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Image rights: © Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA. New York, NY

Tate. Acquired by purchase and gift from the Dedalus Foundation, 1996

About Robert Motherwell

Alongside Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell is considered one of the great American Abstract Expressionist painters. His esteemed intellect not only undergirded his gorgeous, expressive paintings—frequently featuring bold black shapes against fields of color—but also made Motherwell one of the leading writers, theorists, and advocates of the New York School. He forged close friendships with the European Surrealists and other intellectuals over his interests in poetry and philosophy, and as such served as a vital link between the pre-war avant-garde in Europe and its post-war counterpart in New York, establishing automatism and psychoanalysis as central concerns of American abstraction. "It's not that the creative act and the critical act are simultaneous," Motherwell said. "It's more like you blurt something out and then analyze it.

American, 1915-1991, Aberdeen, Washington, based in New York and Greenwich, Connecticut